Bean Spotting Hits Later This Year

Bean Spotting Hits Later This Year

Snap Bean leaf with common bacterial spot - Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

Snap Bean leaf with common bacterial spot – Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

As snap bean season is winding down and daytime temperatures regularly approach the lower 90s, common bacterial blight is making its presence known. In March or April, when snap bean plants are young and full of fresh growth, vegetable gardeners would never guess that their leafy plants could turn spotty and ugly during harvest time.

That is exactly what happens when daytime temperatures steadily remain in the mid-80s and low-90s, and nighttime temperatures are in the lower 70s. The perfect storm for this bacterial disease occurs when these temperatures combine with afternoon and evening showers, creating sticky, humid nights perfect for the proliferation of the causal agent, Xanthomonas campestris pv. Phaseoli.

Common bacterial blight begins showing up on older leaves first and then slowly spreads to younger growth and pods. If plants are left untreated, disease progression will continue if rainy nights and warm daytime temperatures continue. If weather conditions are consistently dry, daytime temperatures are above 90 and overhead irrigation is limited to mornings or eliminated, the blight will stop progressing to new growth. This disease may also be transmitted by insects.

Note the brown, water-soaked spots on the underside of this leaf, typical of a bacterial infection - Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

Note the brown, water-soaked spots on the underside of this leaf, typical of a bacterial infection – Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

If conditions favorable to common bacterial blight exist, preventative sprays of copper fungicide will work to

Snap Bean leaf with common bacterial spot - Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

Snap Bean leaf with common bacterial spot – Closeup – Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

reduce infection and damage to crop, but there is no product to cure what has already been infected.

One of the best techniques available to manage common bacterial blight in beans is to rotate crops regularly so that legumes are not grown on the same ground year after year. This is easily accomplished in a diverse home garden with different raised beds or garden plots.

To learn more about common bacterial blight of bean follow these links to the NFREC Plant Pathology U-Scout page or read IFAS Extension PUBLICATION #PP-62

Correcting 3 Common Tomato Growing Mistakes

Correcting 3 Common Tomato Growing Mistakes

2022 has been a good tomato growing year for many Panhandle gardeners, myself included.  It would have been difficult to have better climatic conditions to aid a terrific tomato harvest.  After enduring a late frost just before Easter, the Panhandle then experienced two mild months in April and May that combined with nearly a month of dry weather during fruit development to deliver an excellent fruit set season with minimal disease and insect pressure.  However, despite the favorable growing conditions, I have talked with several gardeners that once again struggled to yield a good crop of fresh garden tomatoes.  Why is that?  With the Panhandle tomato home gardening season nearing its conclusion, now is a perfect time to revisit 3 of the most common mistakes that prevent an excellent harvest!

Not Starting Early – Since Memorial Day, the rain and heat have really ramped up.  These hot, wet conditions are perfect for developing tomato plant problems like fungal and bacterial diseases, not to mention the fact that tomato plants will stop setting fruit once nighttime temperatures rise above 75 F.  While spraying fungicides preventatively can certainly help decrease disease incidence, the absolute best thing a gardener can do is try to get ahead of the disease-bringing heat and humidity by starting plants early when more favorable growing conditions prevail.  So, what is early?  I try to have tomato transplants in the ground by March 15 or soon after*.  If you plan to grow plants from seed, they should be started indoors mid-January for planting outdoors in mid-March.  Most tomato varieties take between 60 and 80 days to mature after planting, so a mid-March planting date normally yields harvestable tomatoes by the middle of May, comfortably beating the June disease deadline.  *Planting early means protecting plants from occasional late frosts.  Be prepared!

Not Scouting Your Plants – Pest and disease problems are a lot easier to manage if caught early and the best way to do that is to spend time with your plants.  If you scout (just walking by and giving plants a short inspection) daily, you’ll learn what tomato plants and the beneficial insects that hang around all the time are supposed to look like an and be able to spot abnormalities and bad bugs when they occur.  While tomato diseases and pest outbreaks can certainly cause a lot of damage in a short amount of time, they don’t reach disastrous levels immediately – be vigilant and catch them early!

Not Fertilizing and Watering Correctly – It takes a lot of energy for a tomato plant to grow a nice, bushy plant AND yield an abundance of America’s favorite vegetable (or fruit, depending on who you ask).  To produce that necessary energy, gardeners must ensure plants receive adequate nutrition and water.  Here’s my general prescription.  At planting, apply a general purpose, slow-release fertilizer according to the label rate (for example, Osmocote, Harrell’s, or similar) and gypsum (a calcium supplement that helps prevent blossom end rot) at one pound per hundred square feet of garden.  Then, supplement later in the season with a quick-release general purpose fertilizer sufficient to drive growth and fruit development.  Watering is more of an ongoing concern.  For the first couple of weeks of the tomato plant’s life, you can get by with watering once a day or every other day.  As the plants get larger and the days get hotter however, watering twice daily is often needed to prevent wilting down in the heat of the day.  Allowing tomato plants to wilt, even for a little while, is an excellent way to encourage blossom end rot and a subpar harvest!

When tomato season rolls around in 2023, remember to start early, scout often, and water and fertilize correctly.  Follow those few tips and you’ll be well on your way to a great harvest in 2023!  For more information about growing tomatoes or any other horticultural or agricultural topic, contact us at the UF/IFAS Calhoun County Extension Office at 850-674-8323 or email  Happy Gardening!



Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

We all must begin somewhere in horticulture, including growing yummy vegetables of your own to enjoy and share.  This activity, or is it passion, has a long colorful history while most of the time provides an exceptional food source.  It can be a bit daunting the first time you try and maybe even the others to follow with determining what, when, where and how to plant for a future harvest.

Raised Bed Vegetable Garden with Drip and Black Plastic. Photo Credit: Stephen Greer, UF/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa

Selecting that convenient site in full sun easy with access to check on the plants progress.  Things you will need to consider are the number of hours of direct sun the garden area will receive.  Most garden vegetables will need at least eight hours of sunlight.  Many of the leafy greens can be grown with less than eight hours with the least amount of sun at six hours.  All others will need eight or more hours of sunlight.  Water is a critically important part of successful vegetable garden.  Too little water and the plants will not survive well and produce little and too much will reduce or end plant production.  A general rule is one inch of water a week during the growing season.  This can come from rain or irrigation and likely is a combination.

Mid-Spring Production with Managed Irrigation. Photo Credit: Stephen Greer – UF/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa

Planning your garden before doing anything else is critically important.  Take out a paper and pencil and sketch out how you want to plant your garden and what you want to grow.  Start by drawing rows and labeling each row.  Think about spacings between plants in the rows and between rows.  Do you plan to plant everything in the ground, raised beds or on a trellis?  More effective space utilization can occur by planting two- or three-foot-wide beds to plant multiple narrow rows that can be managed and harvested from both sides of the bed.  Some plants to think about growing this way are leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, onion and others.

Going vertical to grow vine type plants like beans, cucumbers, early spring peas and others can be a fun part of gardening.  This type of gardening allows for more space use over the same ground area.  Other plants can be grown in the same bed depending on the light.

Multiple Types of Raised Beds. Photo Credit: Stephen Greer, UF/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa

If you have interest in growing with raised beds, there are a number of materials that are used to build the beds.  First do not use old railroad ties as they will leach chemicals into the soil that the vegetables can possibly take up or contaminate your soil.  I have seen all kinds of creative materials used including cedar wood, plastic boards or preformed beds, even old whiskey barrels with legs built under.  Do not forget all kinds of planting containers are available in the marketplace.  Make sure there are drain holes in the bottom to allow the water to properly move through.

This is just the beginning of vegetable gardening.  Other things to plan involve when to plant, what to plant, what is the budget, use seeds or transplants, depth of planting, watching for plant pests, harvest, storage and so on.  Enjoy your gardening adventure!





Charapita Pepper, A Unique Flavor in the Garden

Charapita Pepper, A Unique Flavor in the Garden

charapita pepper fruit

Fruit of the charapita pepper. Image Credit: Stephanie Gainer, UF / IFAS Extension Master Gardener Volunteer

As spring has officially sprung, my mind has been turning to what delectable delights we may be able to grow this year in our Extension Demonstration Vegetable Garden. A few years ago, I was introduced to the very flavorful pepper, aji charapita (to be referred to as charapita) by one of my master gardener volunteers, Stephanie Gainer. When we met Stephanie and I discovered we both shared a love for spicy cuisine, so she introduced me to the charapita. I thought I had heard of all the peppers in cultivation, but when I heard this unusual flavorful pepper, I was astonished!

The charapita pepper is a small pea sized pepper that begins purplish brown and is a bright orange/yellow when ripe. It is a native of the Peruvian Amazon and holds the designation of being the most expensive pepper when sold by dry weight. Reasoning for this is two-fold, since it is very difficult to germinate, and the fruit is very small in size. They also require warm nights to fruit, so production is not suited for every climate. Also, we have found that they do best in the central Florida Panhandle when given afternoon shade after 6-8 hours of full sun in the morning. Aside from these requirements, cultivation is very similar to other hot peppers. As a compact plant, it is ideal for container culture.


Large but compact charapita pepper plant in a container.

Large but compact charapita pepper plant in a container. Image Credit: Stephanie Gainer, UF / IFAS Master Gardener Volunteer

When germinating seed, it is recommended to grow them indoors, 8-12 weeks before the last frost date in your area, in a very sunny location with a heating pad at the base of the starting pots.  Once temperatures are consistently above 50°F during the night it is ok to set them out in the garden.

As with other hot peppers, they should be fertilized with a standard vegetable fertilizer blend at planting and periodically thereafter based on the needs of the plant in ones individual garden.

Charapita has a unique citrus and tropical fruit aroma and taste, providing the usual heat associated with cayenne peppers (about 50,000 Scoville heat units). It is often used fresh in small amounts when flavoring rice and seafood dishes but is also used as a dried ingredient for chili and grilled meat preparations. Some have said it is best added at the end of cooking. Most likely, it would be an excellent addition added fresh to finely chopped salads, to spice up traditional chimichurri or in Pico de Gallo.

In the central Florida Panhandle, we have been unsuccessful at overwintering plants so far, but others by the coast or in central or south Florida might have more success.

For more information about growing peppers in your home garden, please follow this link for a Gardening Solutions publication on the topic.

An Extension colleague of mine, Gary Bachman of Mississippi State University, has penned this excellent article about specialty peppers with a great pickling recipe for charapita. Happy growing!

Starting Early in the Garden!

Starting Early in the Garden!

Some of the many benefits of starting your own home garden are having fresher, more nutritious produce, the positive effects on physical and mental health, increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and a potential cost savings. Also there are many advantages to starting a garden in the spring with transplants. You avoid bad weather, achieve earlier and higher yields, avoid insect and disease issues, and can choose the best and strongest plants to add to your garden.

Using a self-watering container is an excellent option if you find yourself away from the garden this summer. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Using a self-watering container is an excellent option if you find yourself away from the garden this summer. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Now is the time to start planting seeds indoors for warm season crops such as tomato, pepper, cucumber, eggplant, okra, summer squash, watermelon and many more. It is important to consider the number of days to harvest, planting zone, and location to plant. Buy seeds from a reputable source and check the expiration dates/sell-by dates and follow the packet.

For some vegetables, buy transplants from your local nursery. Photo by Molly Jameson.

When seeding the containers follow instructions for the seeding rates, spacing and depth on your seed packet. Smaller seeds can be broadcast over the surface and larger seeds will need to be covered with soil. Temperature and humidity are important for germination. Your packet will be specific on how deep to plant the seeds and a range of how long it will take to germinate.  Label your container with the vegetable name and date seeded. You may find yourself like me and thinking you will remember what it is only to be guessing what you have as it germinates! 

Most seeds started indoors will be ready for the garden in 4 to 6 weeks. Transplants must be hardened off first which means you should reduce the amount of water and stop fertilizing 1-2 weeks before they are ready to go into the garden.  The seedlings will need a good bit of sun/light and moisture once they germinate to avoid leggy and stretchy plants.

The next step is to care for your transplants. As you have taken the time to seed them, watch them grow, and then put the plants into their new home it is important to set them up for success. Monitor the transplants for insect and disease on a weekly basis. Make sure the garden is free of weeds before the plants go into the ground. Weeds will fight for the same water and nutrients as the transplants. Transplant when the environmental conditions are best. This means to plant them in the morning, on a cloudy/overcast day, and when there is not a big storm in the forecast. When taking the little transplant out of the pot be careful to not disturb the roots and do not pack the soil around the roots.

If you have any questions on spring gardening please contact your local extension office for more information.


Garden to Table: The Southern Way Event March 26th 9-12pm

Garden to Table: The Southern Way Event March 26th 9-12pm

This is the third session in a 3-part series focused on growing and cooking food from your own garden.

About this event

Do you want to grow vegetables such as okra, peas and summer squash? Join us for a workshop focusing on how to best grow and care for your summer vegetable garden and learn some new recipes to make with your harvest!

Participants will have the chance to taste several foods and will take home a variety of seeds and starter plants.

For persons with disabilities requiring special accommodations, please contact the Extension Office (TDD, via Florida Relay Service, 1-800-955-8771) at least five working days prior to the class so that proper consideration may be given to the request.

The University of Florida (UF), Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide educational information without discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations.